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PDF David McCullough Ñ The Path Between the Seas The Creation of the Panama Canal Ñ

On December 31 1999 after nearly a century of rule the United States officially ceded ownership of the Panama Canal to the nation of Panama That nation did not exist when in the mid 19th century Europeans first began to explore the possibilities of creating a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow but mountainous isthmus; Panama was then a remote and overlooked part of ColombiaAll that changed writes David McCullough in his magisterial history of the Canal in 1848 when prospectors struck gold in California A wave of fortune seekers descended on Panama from Europe and the eastern United States seeking uick passage on California bound ships in the Pacific and the Panama Railroad built to serve that traffic was soon the highest priced stock listed on the New York Exchange To build a 51 mile long ship canal to replace that railroad seemed an easy matter to some investors But as McCullough notes the construction project came to involve the efforts of thousands of workers from many nations over four decades; eventually those workers laboring in oppressive heat in a vast malarial swamp removed enough soil and rock to build a pyramid a mile high In the early years they toiled under the direction of French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps who went bankrupt while pursuing his dream of extending France's empire in the Americas The United States then entered the picture with President Theodore Roosevelt orchestrating the purchase of the canal—but not before helping foment a revolution that removed Panama from Colombian rule and placed it suarely in the American camp


10 thoughts on “The Path Between the Seas The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870 1914

  1. says:

    My uncle recommended it I had barely started it when we left on a cruise of the Panama Canal sailing from LA This book is a detailed non fiction account of France's selection of the canal site in Central America the politics diseases intrigues and construction of locks and Big Dig I forgot all about the cruise ship activities and buried myself in this book It awoke the inner engineer in me that I didn't know I had I read it desperately night and day hoping to finish before reaching the canal Cruise ship stage shows? Nah Cocktails with the captain? Forget it I did manage to finish the book before reaching Panama Then I found that the travel across the Isthmus was as intense as the book itself I couldn't bear to see particular shores of the canal floating by anonymous and silent Other parts were as thrilling as a fairy tale for the young Upon reaching the Atlantic I found myself in tears That tells you how this book can change your outlookeven towards a body of water A year later the wonder is still with me


  2. says:

    “Ideas too have their period of extrinsic incubation and particularly if they run contrary to what has always seemed common sense”Fact is almost always interesting than fiction and history is full of a lot of interesting facts David McCullough has proved this time and time again in his books “The Path Between the Seas” is one of his best examples The history of the building of the Panama Canal is one I knew nothing about and it is one hugely fascinating story The 44 year span between the beginnings of the project to the canal’s opening is a great human drama and it is true to bootThe text is divided into 3 sections Part One focuses on the French idea for the canal and their attempt at creating it I knew nothing about this aspect of the Panama Canal It is a grand story with larger than life figures ambitious schemes and shadowy villains It’s got it all and it is edge of your seat reading Part Two focuses on America’s taking over the project years after the French failed attempt Part Three focuses on the completion of the project and some of the key players of that aspectThere were many highlights for me in this text but one moment was McCullough’s detailing of the Panamanian Locks on the canal It had this reader in 2019 shaking his head in amazement at what engineers accomplished in 1911 As McCullough aptly writes “They were truly one of the engineering triumphs of all time but for reasons most people failed to comprehend” Someone in the time period wrote of the enterprise “Strongly as the Panama Canal appeals to the imagination as the carrying out of an ideal it is above all things a practical mechanical and industrial achievement” After reading this book you see just how much it is all of those things and Over 40 years after the project began in an irony that only real life can produce WW I officially starts on the same day as the first oceangoing vessel passes thru the canal “The Path Between the Seas” is one of McCullough’s better efforts And he has not written a bad book This is a tome worthy of such a monumental subject I end this review encouraging you to read this book and with a line from the text that sums it up “Primarily the canal is an expression of that old and noble desire to bridge the divide to bring people together It is a work of civilization”


  3. says:

    This is a wonderful book I read this book ahead of a cruise my wife and I took through the Panama Canal and was stunned at the massive under taking to accomplish this structure This is a part of history I knew nothing about How France went bankrupt trying to finish it the huge numbers of people who died from yellow fever and the theories at the time of why FascinatingAt one point the author gives a list of what one surveying expedition took on the trip For me the list is fascinating all on its own For one; the hundreds and hundreds of extra shoes Which seemed odd until you find out later the expedition ran out of shoes just a few miles in The jungle ate them If you like well written history I highly recommend itDavid Putnam author of The Bruno Johnson series


  4. says:

    Something very strange happens about 30% through Path Between the Seas For the first 13 of the book the reader must trudge through pedantic descriptions of very trivial matters and a hodgepodge of boring discussions on all things nautical Then all of a sudden McCullough does something amazing he reminds you that people everyday ordinary people really cared about the Panama Canal what it could do and what it would mean And when it nearly failed even though we are talking about people who have been dead upwards of 70 years you feel bad for them Its that empathy that is a true gift in this book APBtS is the story of three nations a nation on the decline France a nation on the rise the United States and the land ColumbiaPanama they had in common where there paths intersected so geometrically The story begins in the 1860s as France celebrates the completion of the Suez canal It then is destroyed almost literally in a war with Germany After its crushing psyche changing defeat France decides to continue the war not on the field of battle where it would have been destroyed again but in the great works of the world the Eiffel Tower the Statue of Liberty the Suez Canal and finally the Panama Canal The French engage in a long struggle to bridge the gap between the oceans and this stirs up a great sense of national pride that the lost war rendered silent before Suddenly men and women invest heavily in major corporations to get the canal built for progress and for France But as the book illustrates France is not what it once was; they misjudge almost everything about the project the time the cost the distance even the route and how the canal will look In time France is entangled in one of the most celebrated failures in historyBut as the book points out this is unfair Yes the French only built about 13 of the canal but when the Americans did take over in 1903 the materials buildings and work they had left was extremely well done In fact the author almost goes so far as to saty that had the French not done such a good job on the first 13 its possible the canal would never have been builtIts here that the books truest strength lies when describing how all the average investors in France took the news of the loss there was basically crying in the streets and the market tanked because of France's despondency over its failure It really was like Sedan all over again You feel for these people the struggled mightily and almost did the impossible Yet at the same time it clearly illustrated the illusory strength and resolve of France at this time France was a nation on the decline and its inability to rationalize the Panama Canal execute the plans and face its challenges were all signs of a faltering peopleEnter the United States Fresh off its one sided thumping of Spain in the Spanish American War the US was as energetic and bombastic as its bully President Theodore Roosevelt A nation on the rise the US has men supplies and an economy ready to tackle any problem including building a canal for its own purposes The US not only decides to take over the canal project but almost as an after thought helps stir up a rebellion in Columbia so that the nation known as Panama rebels and forms its own government Thus the US has a friendly ally to welcome their intervention and build the canal The book does a solid job describing the people both the named principals and the relatively faceless masses of men who dug the canal The book describes how the diseases of Yellow Fever and Malaria were tamed in Panama and how these diseases were so feared The book culminates with the US sitting astride the two Oceans and doing a job many said could not be done The first boat crossed the full length of the canal on August 3 1914 On that same day the United States was informed that Germany had declared War on France thus starting World War I and the ultimate beginning of the end for the old European powers The book has enormous slow points including the monotonous descriptions of some mechanical processes that will bore i even the most ardent minutia fan The book also spends too much time describing some of the mundane travels and tribulations of some of the major players which is not time well spent Still PBtS makes you care about all these people and the true engineering marvel they created how vast the area was how immovable the obstacles were and how great their accomplishment was


  5. says:

    This is a tough book to rate If you are a history nerd like myself then this book probably deserves the 4 stars that I have given it However if you are a normal person and reader then this book would probably get three maybe even two stars because it can easily be mind numbingly boring The reason for this difference of opinion is almost certainly the length and the depth of detail The book is 617 pages of text and I have to admit that 150 200 pages could probably have been chopped to make the book readable That being said I can't imagine a thoroughly researched and detailed account of everything that went into building the Panama Canal The first half of the book is devoted to the French effort that started the Canal in 1880 Because the French effort was publicly financed most of the detail concerns all the financial schemes needed to keep this project moving ahead Then there was the resulting legal actions that followed the French failure While this was important information to know as the basis for the subseuent American effort I do believe that it was vastly overdone and could have benefited from serious editing Following the French disaster you get Roosevelt's involvement and the theft of Panama from Columbia and the politics and schemes involved with that enterprise The American effort is the heart of the book and probably what most readers are interested in learning The book is no less detailed but this detail is about the actual digging of the canal and how the project was approached by the succession of chief engineers What you get from all of this is that the building of the Panama Canal was a lot than a lot of digging in the jungle and it was It was interesting to read about the successful endeavors of people in something other than a military or political event Our history is than bombs and bureaucrats generals and diplomats In the history of this canal you have innovative people from a variety of disciplines from medicine to engineering from management to human resources and it was fascinating to read about their problems and the solutions they devised to solve them But I will grant that much of the fascination a reader could have had from this book was diluted by the cumbersome length and depth of detail I liked the book but it did stop the circulation in my leg than once LOL


  6. says:

    My whole life is a lie My favorite palindrome is BOGUS I mean sure it's still a palindrome but it's just not trueA MAN A PLAN A CANAL PANAMAA M A N A P L A N A C A N A L P A N A M AThere wasn't a man there wasn't even a plan There were like a dozen men all with various plans It was almost built in Nicaragua The one guy with a decent plan from the beginning was ignored and his plan sat unnoticed in a file somewhere while the rest of them ran around killing thousands of workers and then shrugging and going back to the drawing board when that didn't work The French started it failed terribly lost thousands of men and women to malaria and yellow fever and then went bankrupt Teddy Roosevelt in classic Teddy Roosevelt style went after it but couldn't decide and frankly didn't care where to build or how he just wanted a canal built and some of the glory if not all The whole situation was frankly a clustercuss and it's amazing it got built at all It's uite fascinating reading and I had no idea about any of it But it's also rather dry reading and in the middle section McCullough assumes you know all about Latin American politics of the time I don't know about Latin American politics of TODAY let alone 1905 There's an endless parade of names and literally everyone is described as being broad shouldered and with a mustache and it was impossible for me to keep track of them There is a revolution for Panamanian independence which I did not know they didn't have and I could not keep track of who was on which side The US totally meddled of course and I wasn't sure if they were on one side or both and which side would be better It was to be blunt a hard slog reading wise The last 200 pages though with actual canal building and descriptions of the living uarters and amenities at the work camps were my jam


  7. says:

    Probably no one writes complete – and exhaustive – histories than David McCullough In “The Path Between the Seas” one of his earlier works 1977 McCullough guides you through the political financial and engineering intricacies of building the Panama Canal a modern wonder of the world It’s a fascinating read especially if you enjoy history politics and geography The opening of the canal – and control – allowed the United States to maintain a two ocean navy and provide security for some of the important sea lanes affecting world commerce Taking nearly fifty years to build at the turn of the twentieth century it was the largest costliest single effort ever mounted anywhere on earth Thank Teddy Roosevelt for completing the project; thank Jimmy Carter for giving it away


  8. says:

    You wouldn't think that a book detailing the creation of the Panama Canal would be an exciting and uick read Well you'd be wrong I love David McCullough I think he is flat out the best biographer out there as well as being one hell of a history author 1776 is my favorite book about the American revolution The Path Between the Seas had me so interested in geology Central American politics jungle wildlife topography stuff that I would never have thought I would be interested in It's not simply a story of the Panama Canal it is a story of everything that multiple countries and governments went through to bring this grand project to fruition Amazingly well written but I expect no less from Mr McCullough


  9. says:

    CONSUMMATELY BORING AND YET “The United States had a mandate from civilization to build the canal he Theodore Roosevelt told Congress on January 4 1904”—page 387Reading very much like an eighth grade textbook— pedantically packed with a densely detailed confusing and virtually meaningless litany of facts figures names and dates—especially the first two thirds of David McCullough’s behemoth THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870 1914 presents a serious challenge to slogging on It’s not until page 411 Book Three The Builders 1904 1914 that the story begins to get really interesting; when with rough riding Teddy R leading the charge the Americans sashay to the rescue And then it becomes an engaging tale of the epic struggle of man mind might and machine against nature climate topography and disease We know who the eventual winners were Recommendation 1 Forget everything I’ve written here; 2 remember that this is David McCullough we’re talking about; and 3 read some of the many five star goodreadscom reviews on which to base your ‘to read’ or ‘not to read’ choice “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time the culmination of a heroic dream of four hundred years and of than twenty years of phenomenal effort and sacrifice”—page 619NOOKbook edition 731 pages 624 pages before Acknowledgments and Notes


  10. says:

    I wasn't sure whether to award 4 or 5 stars to this book until I realized that my withholding a star had to do with me than the book In his typically lucid prose McCullough wrote a complete history of the building of the Canal The research was impeccable; the book deserves all the accolades it received From the disastrous French attempt at building it to the American struggles and finally success the reader is given the full story The egos involved always meant that there would be conflict and the breadth of the project meant that the engineers designing it would need to be exceptional and what they did Those in charge had to be able to manage large numbers of people and with the exception of Wallace they pretty much did What I found a bit difficult to get through was all the information on the methods that were used but I realize that this is an important part of the story McCullough also focused on the blacks who did most of the work were paid the least and received almost no credit for what they did As the media covered the story as it unfolded the public was kept apprised of the methods that were employed to make the rate of disease drop dramatically What wasn't mentioned or cared about was that while the rate of disease dropped exponentially among whites it remained high among blacks and very little notice taken of that McCullough referred to the system that was put in place under the Americans as a caste system All in all the book was very educational and worthwhile Building the canal was a monumental feat and McCullough gives it its due